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The Oxford Family

by Betty Oxford Morrison

Oxfords lived for several years in Atoka County, but as of the date of this publication, only one descendant is known to currently reside in Atoka County, and that is Thelma Oxford Walker, better known as "Toni." The Oxfords were well known for their musical talent, and played at many dances in and around Farris, Lane, and the sawmill camps of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Initially, around 1911, there were three Oxford families residing in Atoka County. They were Jeffery Wilburn, Lillie May, and Edward Lee, children of James M. "Jim" Oxford and Prudence Doty, who had moved to Indian Territory from Oxford Bend, Arkansas (near present day Goshen). Jim and Prudence are buried Ti, Oklahoma.

Some of Jim and Prudy’s other children may have lived for awhile in Atoka County. They were Sarah Jane, James Columbus, Belle, Berdie, Elvie, Toy D., Royal, Bertha A., Bunny, Alfie and Mary, making a total of fourteen children.

The following are the three known to have lived in Atoka County:

Lillie May Oxford (b. August 25, 1880, d. January 6, 1971), married Samuel David Helomes and lived in Atoka until her death.

Edward Lee Oxford (b. August 5, 1882, d. January 4, 1948), married Lois Viola Lynn, daughter of John C. Lynn and Mary Frances McCasslin, on October 16, 1901, and had two daughters. One daughter, Flossie lived to adulthood and married High Green. Flossie and High lived in Atoka for several years, where their daughters, Wynona, Mayme Ruth, Jane and Ann attended the Atoka Public Schools. Flossie worked for awhile as a nurse at the Atoka Hospital. Flossie later married Gene McConnell and currently resides in Irving, Texas. Her daughters live in Texas, Colorado, and California.

Jeffery Wilburn Oxford (b. October 20, 1891, d. May 10, 1971), married Bessie Jane Peeler, daughter of James F. Peeler and Mary Cole, at Lane, Oklahoma, on December 18, 1912. Prior to his marriage, Jeff and his pal, John Lynn, were considered quite the catch by the young ladies of Pittsburg and Atoka Counties. A contemporary of theirs reports the girls liked to date Jeff and John because they owned suits!

Jeff and Bessie settled down to farming in and around Ti, Daisy, Centerpoint and Farris, and had the following children: Sadie, Orval, Cecil, Ray, Thelma, Mildred, Eugene Lawrence, Majorie, Nedra, Arnold Dan, Alvin Carl and Royal Edward.

Jeff and Bessie died in California and are buried in the Clovis Cemetery.

It was this family that provided music for many country dances in Atoka County. Some of these children currently reside in California and are still active musicians.

Of the above children, Orval (b. August 13, 1915, d. August 11, 1976) was among the last to leave Atoka county. He and his wife, Theresia Lynn, daughter of John C. Lynn, Jr. and Ola Goodson, moved with their children, Millard Ray and Betty Lee, to Oklahoma City in 1948. Prior to that date, both children attended Lane School and can recall many fond memories of visiting and playing with their Goodson, Lynn and Latimer cousins, swimming in a ten foot swimming hole, swinging on grapevines (and smoking them), and of stealing watermelons from a relative’s patch. Millard Ray is retired from the Federal Housing Administration and is currently a building contractor in Shawnee. Betty is a Land Law Examiner with the Department of Interior, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It is believed the Oxfords that lived in Atoka County are descended from Samuel Oxford, who was one of the first white men to settle in North Carolina. Legend reports that another white man, Jonathan Barrett, living nearby, with the Cawtawba Indians, was married to Jarmin, daughter of King Haigler, a famous chief of the Cawtawba Indians, who according to North Carolina colonial records, was very kind and benevolent to the American settlers. The legend continues that Samuel married Barrett’s daughter, Bathsheba, and settled down and operated a ferry on the Cawtawba River, which is near where the Oxford Dam stands today, creating Lake Hickory, near the town of Oxford Cord, North Carolina.

Records reflect that Samuel provided grain and food to the Cawtawba Indians for their support to the English in the French and Indian War, and he is also listed among the Revolutionary War veterans.

It is reported that for more than a half century, Samuel operated his ferry on the Cawtawba River. At that period of history "hard money" was hard to come by. The Justices comprising the county fixed the rates that a ferryman could charge from two pences for a man or single animal to one shilling for wagon and team. These fees, which were small, were almost always paid in coin or "hard money." Anyway, legend has it that Samuel accumulated a considerable amount of "hard money" which he buried near his home for safekeeping. Older people related this story down to descendants still living in that area today. As a result of the story, vandals dug dozens of holes near the ruins of Samuel’s cabin, including his grave. Whatever the facts in this case may be, many people believe that somewhere in the earth of a small ridge on Lake Hickory, N.C., is a pot of coins buried by Samuel Oxford, who died without revealing the hiding place.

Records reflect, however, that Samuel died in 1811, leaving a will in which proceeds from the sale of his goods, chattels, land, and tenements were distributed to his eleven surviving children. Some of his children had migrated to Kentucky (probably with Daniel Boone’s group that left that area of N.C. ca1785-1790). One descendant, Abel Oxford, migrated to Tennessee and then to Arkansas, where he settled at a place on the White River, which became known as Oxford Bend.

The Oxfords proliferated and became well known in Washington County, Arkansas. Several Oxford boys fought in the Civil War and many battles and skirmishes were fought in this area, including the one at Oxford Bend. Many of the civilians were forced to move to Texas, for safety for the duration of the war. After the war, during the 1870’s, and until law and order was established, there was much violence in this area of Arkansas. There were many bands of vandals and riff-raff left over from the war that preyed on the citizens, for it was easy for outlaws to hurry to safety within Indian Territory.

By the end of the 1880’s, most of the good land had been settled and was being farmed. The younger generation had to look elsewhere for land, so quite naturally, they moved west to Indian Territory, where they could get permits form the Nations to farm.

James Madison "Jim" Oxford (b. May 3, 1853 in Arkansas, to James M. and Hetty Oxford), was just such a man. He moved his wife, Prudence (b. October 2, 1858 in Missouri), and their children to Indian Territory, settling near Brooken, and later Ti, where they lived until their deaths in 1916 and 1926, respectively.

It was Jim and Prudy’s children, Lillie May, Edward Lee and Jeffery Wilburn, that became the Oxfords of Atoka County.

Article taken from "Tales of Atoka County Heritage"

The Atoka Co., OK. book was published in 1983